March 8 is International Women's Day , a day which makes visible the different areas in which women's rights continue to be compromised. A day in which we ask for political, social, economical –and I always add emotional—equality of the sexes. Some of the themes we fight for include:
- A holistic approach to sexual education
- Recognition of unpaid domestic labor
- Elimination of the wage gap
- Safe spaces where women can roam freely with no fear of getting hurt (neither physically nor emotionally)
A big part of my efforts as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist with a feminist perspective, is to create content (in the form of articles, workshops, courses, and/or seminars) to prevent violence against women; foster a culture of shared responsibility between mothers and fathers; minimize toxic masculinity in young boys; open a conversation about sexual consent; among others.
Extra hours, same money According to a recent study by Dr Heejung Chung from the University of Kent working with Dr Mariska van der Horst from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, mothers who have a flexible working arrangement known as 'schedule control' in a part-time role work an average 20 minutes unpaid overtime per week.
To me, a society is a reflection of what happens at home. And, if we want a society based on equality, we must first build a home based on equality, as well. Which, to me, can be summarized in three key points:
Sharing the domestic work at home
According to UN Women , women do 2.5 times more unpaid domestic work (cleaning, cooking, taking care of children, housekeeping) than men. This has a direct effect on the quantity of time that they can devote to their actual careers and paid work. Which, consequently, affects women's access to leadership roles. This takes a toll on their emotional health, which affects their overall wellbeing.
Foster leadership in young girls
"Strong" and "dominant" have historically had a negative connotation when associated with powerful women. It's time to change that. A strong girl, with strong self-esteem and enough self-love, is a girl who unapologetically expresses their needs to the world. Culturally , this is seen differently.
Reduce the pace. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes before you begin to speak. Your own easy relaxed speech will be far more effective than any advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly. For some children, it is also helpful to introduce a more relaxed pace of life for awhile.
Having access to STEM careers , for example, can foster a greater receptiveness towards leadership in girls. Girls who, eventually, will become women in leadership positions—a move that's been confirmed is good for the economy and the world . This is why it's so important to foster in our girls that they develop their own voice, their autonomy, and their inner strength.
Sensitize young boys
Toxic masculinity and its effects on boys and men have become so troublesome, that the American Association of Psychology (APA) has launched a special guide to counteract the negative impact these messages have in boys' and men's mental health.
These toxic messages that pressure boys into a stereotype of what a man "should be" limits their emotional expression. And, if they can't manage their emotions appropriately, the risk becomes higher for them to act out. Which has a direct relationship with the high rates of violence against women.
This is why we should raise sensible, emotionally intelligent boys. Who are unafraid to own their vulnerability and express it. If we do so, we are raising emotionally healthier boys who will respect women and provide them with the safe spaces we so desperately need.
I truly believe that if we start working at a preventive level—focusing on these three aspects—we can start to raise a more empathetic, kind, respectful and socially conscious generation of girls and boys. To me, this is the true essence of what feminist parenting is. Isn't that the kind of world we want for our sons and daughters?
Debra Messing (mom of son Roman): “The priority shift is a relief. There are so many things that used to monopolize my time and my energy that I realize now, in the face of being a mother, are just completely irrelevant.”
If you're a mental health specialist or work with parents and would like to learn more about this perspective, I will be giving a talk on this subject at the Diversity in Parenting Conference in Anaheim, CA in September. All details here .